Lyford’s 1-2 punch of Abel Gonzalez and Matthew Sanchez was the envy of District 32-3A this season, helping lead the Bulldogs to a district title and undefeated season in 32-3A play.
Gonzalez, a junior, was the 32-3A MVP. He is the Valley Morning Star’s 2019 All-STAR Baseball Pitcher of the Year.
“It’s a huge honor,” Gonzalez said. “To be honest, I didn’t even really expect any of it. I just play the game to play it because I love it.”
Sanchez, a sophomore, was the 32-3A offensive MVP. He is the Valley Morning Star’s 2019 All-STAR Baseball Offensive Player of the Year.
“It’s a real blessing that God’s been looking over us and giving us these amazing gifts to play the sport that we love,” Sanchez said. “The chemistry that we’ve had as a team is unexplainable, which makes the game a whole lot better than what it is.”
Lyford coach Kevin Ledesma said the duo’s versatility was critical to the team’s success.
“On the mound, they were No. 1 and No. 2,” Ledesma said. “Abel would start a game off against our toughest district opponent, and Matt would come in and finish that game. Also at the plate, Abel would lead us off and Matt usually would bring him in. … We knew whenever we had these guys on the mound or somewhere on the field that when the ball went to them, good things were going to happen.”
Gonzalez posted a 2.47 ERA and recorded 93 strikeouts. He also hit .596 and scored 35 runs, and racked up 13 RBIs and 28 stolen bases. Sanchez hit .439 with 24 RBIs, 26 runs scored and 27 stolen bases. On the mound, Sanchez accounted for 56 strikeouts and helped close out Lyford’s first playoff win since 1994, 4-3 over Falfurrias.
Ledesma and his players said the turning point of the team’s season came when the Bulldogs were down 5-2 against Premont in their last non-district game March 22 and rallied to win 6-5 in walkoff fashion for their first of 13 straight victories.
“We started understanding how to trust each other,” Sanchez said. “We learned how to work efficiently and quickly and smoothly with each other. That’s where Coach Ledesma played a big role.”
Sanchez said his relationship with Gonzalez helped the two emerge as team leaders and can help the entire team next season as Lyford returns several sophomores and juniors with playoff experience under their belt.
“The communication that me and Abel have (is important),” Sanchez said. “We both understand what our goals are, and we’re not going to let anything stop us from reaching what we want in life.”